Engine 21's rear tires ignited, causing major damage
A fire engine from Taft is a casualty of the war on brush fires.
Kern County fire engine No. 21, staffed with three firefighters who man A shift at Station 21, burned up in the Soberanes Fire in Northern California recently, according to Fire Chief Brian Marshall.
“It’s unfortunate, but it does happen,” he said of the incident, which occurred July 30 about 3:45 p.m. “The good thing is no one was hurt.”
The cause isn’t fully known, but apparently the rig was parked on a knoll that had been burned over a few hours earlier and something still smoldering beneath the dirt may have caught the rear tires on fire.
The crew did spray the area down with water before leaving, according to the department.
“At the time, our firefighters were 500 yards away fighting the fire,” Marshall said.
The engine fire was spotted by an airplane and other engines parked nearby were used to put it out.
Engine 21’s rear tires were burned away and its back half was severely damaged.
The tires of another nearby truck from a different county were also damaged.
Marshall said Engine 21 was returned on Friday.
Damage is still being assessed to see if it’s a total loss.
Engine 21 cost about $415,000, which doesn’t include all the equipment such as hoses, jaws of life, etc. That adds another $150,000 to the cost.
Marshall was confident Kern County would be reimbursed for the loss.
He wasn’t sure where the money would come from because large fires like this have multiple agencies involved.
For instance, this engine was requested by the California Office of Emergency Services.
The Soberanes Fire has also already received a Fire Management Assistance Grant from FEMA.
And, overall, CAL Fire is in charge and has a long-standing agreement with Kern County, which includes reimbursement for damaged equipment.
“We fully expect reimbursement, but it will take time. They’re still fighting that fire,” Marshall said. “In the meantime we do have enough reserve equipment to make sure the Taft station isn’t sitting empty and to respond if we have another major incident.”
Losing a major piece of equipment such as an engine isn’t common, Marshall said. But it does happen.
In fact a CAL Fire bulldozer hauler was destroyed in the Erskine Fire.
A spokesman for the Soberanes Fire said that since this happened, reminding agencies not to park near smoldering debris has been reiterated numerous times during safety briefings at the fire.